Just a couple quick points since I have to go out of
town this afternoon.
I appreciate the expression and clarification of one
strand of Calvinism. I am aware of it and find it one
prayerfully considered and thought out exegetical
gloss. The parts that I am suggesting should not be
overly stressed (although I am also not asserting that
they are a priori incorrect either) are not creedal.
They are a denominational difference that is rejected
by other denominations (I will resist using GK
Chesterton's famous quote about Calvinism). I am not
saying that this is not a viable perspective. I am
simply saying that rejecting it is not heretical and
that for some people there are profound problems with
the approach of hardline Calvinism.
As to the NT documents being in widespread repute
among the early church, this is absolutely true, but
so were Clement's epistles and the Shepard of Hermas
and at least another dozen documents that were
regarded by many in the early church more highly than
some of the documents that were made canonical. So,
your argument only goes so far in this regard and my
point is that the early Church used a variety of
criteria to try to sort out what was to be canonical.
The did not, in setting the canon, adopt the
understanding that the Westminster Chatechism adopts.
In fact, Roman Catholicism, the Eastern Orthodox, and
the Anabaptist traditions (not to mention
non-Calvinist Protestant denominations) all reject it
to one degree or another for different reasons. Those
reasons are viable reasons and we can broadly discuss
these exegetical perspectives without necessarily
being liberal or conservative. Eastern Orthodoxy, for
example, is very conservative in many ways, but
rejects sola scriptura strongly and rejects a
Calvinistic determinism. What Jim doesn't indicate he
realizes is that Christianity has an expansive
tradition that does not demand one exegetical gloss
My point is not to attack the theology of particular
denominations, but to defend the legitimate basis for
some theological diversity (although I hate to use
that word). It is also to merely point out that the
differences some people tout as the only correct
approach are only one approach out of several. To use
Calvinism as an example (not to pick on it), the
majority of Christian traditions clearly and
categorically reject limited atonement in its hard,
Calvinist form (this is not an attempt to debate the
doctrine of limited atonement, only to make a brief
point). Likewise, most traditions reject a hardline
version of Calvinistic determinism. This does not
mean that Calvinists are necessarily wrong, it is due
to differences in interpretations of the Bible. The
fact of different exegetical traditions, none of which
are necessarily heretical, indicates the great
complexity in interpretation. This continues to be
the point that often gets buried.
Thanks again for the thoughtful response.
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